Building collapse: NCP corporator arrested, police say builders paid bribes

An NCP corporator was among the five people held on Sunday in the building collapse bringing to nine the total number of arrests.

Thane: An NCP corporator was among the five people held on Sunday in the building collapse bringing to nine the total number of arrests in which investigators said civic officials, police and he were allegedly bribed by builders to allow the illegal construction of the seven-storey structure.

As the death toll in the mishap on Thursday rose to 74, Hira Patil, the local corporator from Mumbra; Deepak Chavan, suspended deputy commissioner of Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC); Babasaheb Andhale, an assistant municipal commissioner, along with six others were remanded in police custody by a holiday court till April 20.

Patil has been suspended by NCP, Party spokesman Nawab Malik said.

The accused have been booked under sections 304(A) (causing death by negligence), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, besides section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption act also against the public servants.

Builders Abdul Salim Aziz Siddiqui and Jameel Ahmed Jalaluddin Sheikh, clerk Kisan Madke, building material supplier Afroz Alam Ansari, police constable Jehangir Omar Ali Sayyad, who is attached to Diaghar police station, and Sayyed Jabbar Patel who allegedly acted as a conduit were the others sent to police custody.

Besides the corporator, the others arrested today were Andhale, Madke, Patel and Sayyad.

The arrests and ongoing investigations are pointing to the connivance among the civic officials, unscrupulous builders and police, and how the authorities turned a blind eye to the spate of illegal structures in the area apparently for pecuniary gains, police said.

"The builders bribed public servants, including the civic authorities, police and an elected corporator, in lakhs to ensure that the construction work continued without any hindrance", Thane Police Commissioner K P Raghuvanshi told a press conference.

He claimed that police recovered Rs 5 lakh in cash and some incriminating documents from the residence of Chavan.

The death toll in the building collapse mounted to 74
since the illegal structure, located in Lucky Compound in Mumbra near Shil Phata area, came down crashing on Thursday evening.

"From documents recovered from the arrested builders, it is established that they paid timely bribes, running in lakhs as per initial estimate, to the deputy municipal commissioner, assistant municipal commissioner, the senior clerk, the corporator and the police constable. We have detailed documentary evidence to support this", Raghuvansi said.

He said investigation in the case was at initial stage and more people are likely to be arrested.

"Strict action will be taken against the guilty whose names crop up in the course of investigation, irrespective of their position or affiliation", Raghuvanshi said.

"We are probing the ownership of the land on which the ill-fated building stood and also if flats were registered and residents living on ownership or rental basis", the top cop said.

Explaining the modus operandi, Raghuvanshi said the builders would push for occupancy of the building as soon as each floor is completed because they knew that once flats are occupied authorities will find it difficult to evict the occupants as the third party interest gets created.

He said no previous crime record has been found against all the nine accused.
Raghuvanshi said the arrested builders have two more illegal buildings in the same compound in Mumbra.